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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

Quintet favorites celebrate festivities

By Ruth O. Bingham
Special to The Advertiser

Brass music has long been associated with holidays. After all, it sounded better earlier than most woodwind music, it was loud enough to be heard above all the celebrating, and it could be played both indoors and out.

Honolulu Brass Quintet: 'Brass Classics'

7:30 tonight

Doris Duke Theatre

$20, with discounts for seniors and students

524-0815, ext. 245

On Monday, the Honolulu Brass of Chamber Music Hawai'i heralded the holiday season at Windward Community College's Paliku Theatre with an evening entitled "Brass Classics." It repeats tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The classics they chose were not the usual Baroque-and-carols selection trotted out at this time of year; instead, they chose a variety of short works from the mid-19th to 20th centuries that somehow evoked a festive spirit without a single "holiday" piece.

Perhaps that impression had something to do with the fact that they chose pieces they truly enjoyed performing.

The Honolulu Brass — Mark Schubert and Ken Hafner (trumpets), Wade Butin (French horn), Jim Decker (trombone), and David Saltzman (tuba), all from the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra — managed to capture the tone of friends gathering together of an evening and inviting the audience in to share their entertainment.

Like any lively group of friends, the chosen pieces formed a mysteriously cohesive group that juxtaposed genres from all over the musical map, all of it delightful.

Multimovement sets by Stephen Foster and G.W.E. Friederich represented a huge body of works rarely performed today, those utilitarian "social musics" that dominated before the advent of recordings: quadrilles, marches, waltzes, songs, chorales, quick steps, and so on.

Strongly rhythmic, with clear melodies and structured into regular periods, the works were pleasant to listen to, obviously fun to play, and infectious for dancing. They were also nostalgic for anyone who grew up with them ... public dances in the town hall built over a creek, the wooden floor sagging in time to the music, dancers raising clouds of dust, and beleaguered musicians playing hour after hour late into the night.

Two of the more classically oriented works, composed only a few decades apart, came from opposite ends of the spectrum: Victor Ewald's lovely, pleasant, conventional Quintet No. 3; and Charles Ives' crazily experimental "Brass Collection," revealing his formidable wit, sarcastic edge, and wicked humor.

The Honolulu Brass injected an individual touch by composing their own cadenzas for "Carnival of Venice" with interwoven movie and television themes. The audience had as much fun identifying the themes as the musicians had playing their musical jokes.

The evening turned out to be a festive celebration of Brass Classics, of friendship and of the holiday season.